race report: MSG #6 and NCCX #4: NC State Championships

It took over a week to recover from my illness from Kentucky.  I finally returned to racing this Saturday at the Mud, Sweat and Gears race in Johnson City, TN.  We had beautiful weather all week and I was surprised to see snow on the ground when I woke up!  By the time I loaded up the car it had melted and the sun was shining brightly.  Driving through the mountain pass to Tennessee was a little nerve-wracking as the snow was coming down pretty hard!  However, the leaves are still pretty and the drive was absolutely gorgeous!

Dave was working and I was on my own for this race.  I guess it is good that I only have one bike and race wheelset, so worrying about the pits is not something I usually do.  It also doesn’t hurt that my boyfriend is an excellent pro mechanic and my bike is always very reliable!  It was in the low 30’s, but I managed to stay warm before the race began.  I loved the course–there was sand and lots of sticky mud, but it was not a good day for me.  I had a terrible start, but managed to come around and determine the selection in the first lap.  I was in the mix for the first few laps, but then had major breathing issues similar to what happened in Sun Prairie.  I felt very unlike myself and was not in the race at all mentally.  I managed to hold on to third place, but felt pretty discouraged by my performance.  It has been difficult to accept that my power has been affected by the move.  I thought I could pick up my racing where I left off in Wisconsin, but life has taken over and whatever happened at Louisville knocked me out…

I’m doing my best to stay patient, positive and before I knew it I was headed to Salisbury for the NC State Championships on Sunday.  My race was the first one scheduled and the extra hour of sleep from the time change made a huge difference!  This course was very fast, dry and all power.  Since it was my first NCCX race, I did not get a good starting position on the grid and there was a fairly large field.  Fortunately I have a lot of practice starting from the back and still took control of the race in the first minute.  Within the first lap four of us were off the front.

To say that Robin, who just happens to be one of the top pro road racers in the country, was strong would be an understatement, but she got a slight gap on everyone …that grew every lap.  Everyone in the chase group took turns pulling, but we were not organized or working hard enough to catch her.  I could tell that the rider in fifth place was making a bit of time on us and I tried to keep the train going without wasting all of my energy.

It sounds weird, but this was the first cross race I have been with a group from start to finish.  Most of the races I’ve done get very spread out and feel like time trials at times.  This race was more like 35 min than 45 min, but it was exciting to know that the podium would be decided on the last lap.  I put in a surge up a hill in the woods just before the finish, but Emily covered it and accelerated into the barriers.  If the finish was just a bit further I would have had her, but I just barely came up short for the bronze.  I know where I made my mistakes, but I was happy to finish on my third elite state cx podium within a year, and most importantly, I had a lot of fun!  This was a great lesson in tactics and I am more optimistic for the few remaining races on my schedule.

 

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